Analysis: School Finance Key to Budget Solution

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The debate over education funding seemed settled two years ago, with public schools as the decisive winner.

Now, though, the recession and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' budget proposals are making school finance the biggest issue of this year's legislative session.

Sebelius and legislators must close a projected $186 million deficit in the current budget and prevent a $1 billion shortfall for fiscal year 2010, starting July 1.

But the key question in tackling those problems is how much pain public schools face.

Sebelius tried to spare them as much as possible.

Educators don't feel particularly lucky, but Republican legislative leaders want to go farther than the Democratic governor.

The debate is likely to reinforce two eternal truths about state government: Education funding is always the biggest spending issue, and aid to public schools is favored above other parts of the budget.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)